Tuesday 29 September 2009

Apple, Blackberry and Cheese Torte

So, this is the season of apples and blackberries and the two placed together create the most wonderful marriage of flavours. It's classic.

The hedgerows that surround our cottage are just drooping with blackberries, likewise the apple trees are full of apples that are being picked daily. We are lucky that we can help ourselves to the drops. Back home they would have used the drops to make apple juice . . .

The air rings with the sound of Polish as that is where most of the pickers come from and is filled with the smell of fermenting apples . . . there are tons laying beneath the trees, far too many to use and a lot are decaying now, hence the smell. Back home the deer would be snuffling them up.

Apples and cheese are a pretty formidable combination as well. My mom always served up her homemade apple pies with a tasty slab of cheddar on the side. What happens when you combine the lovely flavours of apples, blackberries and cheese??? Why . . .

You get a fabulously tasty autumnal torte!! You can use Raspberry preserves if you can't get the blackberry. Apricot goes very well also.

Who wouldn't love a sweet cake-like crust, spread with jam and encasing a delicious cheesecake filling topped with sweetly spiced and sliced apples . . .

It's pretty hard to resist!

*Apple and Cheese Torte*
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

This so good and is delicious warm or cold. It's a great brunch item as well as a fabulous coffee break treat, not to mention dessert!
Base:4 ounces butter, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup of blackberry jam
1 - 250g package of cream cheese
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
3 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 230*C/450*F. Cream the butter and sugar for the base together thoroughly. Blend in the flour. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom and 1 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8 1/2 inch wide spring form pan.

Warm the blackberry jam a bit and then spread it over the base of the tart.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla paste together until smooth and fluffy. Spoon this over top of the jam in the crust.

Toss the apples, sugar and cinnamon for the topping together and arrange on top of the cream cheese mixture.Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 200*C/400*F. and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set and the apples are tender.

Cool slightly before removing the pan rim. Serve warm or cold.

Monday 28 September 2009

Perfect Pork Chops with Apples, Sage and Stilton

(Photo courtesy of deliciousmagazine.co.uk)

I think it was sometime last year that Todd and I decided that we weren't going to eat pork anymore. Don't ask me why . . . it was just one of those silly ideas you get, that really don't go anywhere.

We didn't last very long at it. The idea of perfectly roasted pork or grilled chops was far too tempting for us.

I once lived next door to a lady that decided to raise her own pork one year and whom had 5 pigs living in an enclosure not much larger than most people's bathrooms. They were really cute at first, but as time went on and they got larger, they also got smellier, and we just happened to be downwind. Nevermind . . . that's a whole 'nother tale. I digress . . .

I think the most delicious and succulent pork chops come from a rack of pork. You get the tender loin meat along with some tasty rib bits that are just yum yum yum!

I happened to be in the grocery store the other day picking up a rib roast for work, when I noticed the meatman cutting up a rack of pork into chops and they were just so darned good looking I had to pick up a couple for Todd and myself.

You know how it goes . . .

Anyways, these were absolutely wonderful. I cooked them up yesterday, all panfried and nicely browned, with crispy bits of fat clinging to the edges, and then finally roasted with some lightly sauteed apples laid out on top and crumbly bits of stilton.

Fabulous, darlings . . . just fabulous. A marriage made in heaven . . .

*Perfect Pork Chops with Apples, Sage and Stilton*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is simple but impressive and gives you perfectly cooked pork chops every time. I like to use a good porkchop, like a rack pork chop. Delicious!

4 8-ounce pork chops, preferably free range
sea salt (I like to use smoked)
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and sliced into thick wedges
1 TBS butter
fresh sage leaves
3 1/2 ounces of good Stilton cheese, crumbled

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Slash the pork fat along the edge of the chops all the way to the meat. Fan open. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add some olive oil and allow it to heat while you season your chops well on both sides. Cook the chops in the hot oil until they are golden brown on both sides and the fat is crispy, some 3 to 4 minutes. I always hold them up with a pair of tongs fat side down to make sure the fat gets really crispy. Remove them to a shallow metal baking dish. Add the butter to the pan and then add the apples. Fry gently until golden, but still fairly solid. Fan these out on top of each pork chop. Scatter some sage leaves over top. Place into the oven and roast for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven, scatter the stilton over top. Pop back into the oven long enough to melt the cheese.

I like to fry some tender sage heads in the pan drippings until crispy and garnish the finished dish with them.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Ploughman's Muffins

One of the more popular pub lunches over here in the UK is the delicious Ploughman's Lunch. Generally comprised of a buttered crusty loaf, accompanied with Pickle (usually Branstons or a Chutney) slabs of cheddar cheese, and generally some salad leaves on the side, it has become somewhat of a cultural icon over here.

It is really rather good.

Cheese and crusty buttered bread . . . yummy.

Cheese and pickle . . . delicious

Cheese and crusty buttered bread and pickle together . . . scrumdiddlyumptious!!!

I thought I would go a bit further and combine all the tasty flavours in one delightful little muffin.

I was feeling rather inspired.

My pickle of choice . . . a tasty Apricot and Ginger chutney. These rock! (If I don't say so myself!)

*Ploughman's Muffins*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

I just love ordering a ploughman's lunch when we go to the pub. A tasty hunk of good cheese, along with some chutney or pickle and salad leaves . . . simple and yet extremely delicious. Here is a tasty muffin that combines all the wonderful flavours of a ploughman's lunch into one scrumptious little parcel. Perfect for a packed lunch!

2 ounces butter, melted
1 large egg
250ml of milk
1 tsp English Mustard
3 TBS chutney or French mustard
( I like to use an apricot and ginger chutney)
6 ounces strong cheddar cheese, grated and divided
1 TBS baking powder
11 ounces plain flour
pinch salt

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Butter a 12 hole muffin tin very well. Set aside.

Combine the butter, egg, milk, mustard and chutney in a beaker. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the 5 ounces of the cheese. Add the wet ingredients all at once. Combine only until just mixed. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining ounce of cheese evenly over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and firm. Leave in the pan to cool for several minutes before loosening and placing on a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve warm for a real taste treat. These are also very good cold for lunch.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Butterscotch Blondies

I am all for small indulgences. Not all the time, but once in a while it is good to tempt the tummy with something that is totally scrummy and delicious.

I'm afraid for me that means chocolate . . . good chocolate. The BEST chocolate.

Organic Dark milk chocolate by Green and Blacks is usually what pleases me the most.

I can't help it. I just love the stuff. All dark . . . and yet totally milky and creamy, and no . . . once again I am not being paid to tell you this.

It's the truth. I just love Green and Black's Organic Milk chocolate bars. . . plain, or the tasty one that contains fruit and nuts. I am crazy about chocolate filled with either raisins or nuts . . . or both. I keep a tiny personal sized bar in my purse for just such an indulgence. And it's for me . . . all for me. (Any man worth his salt will tell you, never get between a woman and her chocolate indulgence . . . it's dangerous business.)

I'm also crazy about these tasty bars, and I don't mind sharing them. In fact . . . they were meant to be totally shared.

mmmm . . . dangerous. Scrummily dangerous. Not to be trifled with . . .

Moreish even.

*Butterscotch Blondies*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

These bars are lovely and chewy and full of wonderful butterscotch flavour. I try to use the best milk chocolate possible and that is Green and Black’s organic (in my opinion). They small fantastic when baking and the taste, well, it’s out of this world! Bet you can’t eat just one, which also makes them very dangerous to have around!

140g butter, plus more to grease the pan (9 3/4 TBS)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
Pinch salt
350g light muscovado sugar (1 3/4 cup)
2 tsp pure vanilla essence
250g self rising flour (2 1/4 cup)
100g milk chocolate, cut into big chunks (3 1/2 ounces, or a generous 1/2 cup)
100g macadamia nuts or pecan nuts, coarsely chopped ( a very scant cup)
Icing sugar to dust over the tops when done

Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/350*F. Butter a shallow pan, about 20 X 21 cm in size and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small bowl and set aside to cool. In the meantime chop up your chocolate.
Beat the eggs until frothy in another bowl. Add the melted butter along with the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Tip in the flour and mix only until combined. Stir in the chocolate and ¾ of the nuts. Try not to over mix the batter, you'll end up with tough brownies if you do.

Spread the batter into the prepared tin and scatter the remaining nuts on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until done. Don’t overbake. You want them dry on the top with a slight resistance to the touch of a fingertip, but you also want them to be fudgy and moist.
Let cool, then cut into bars and dust with the icing sugar.

Friday 25 September 2009

Spicy Ginger Traybake

I just love the flavour of ginger . . . all spicy and warm and oh-so-comforting. I know . . . I say that about a lot of things. I guess the truth is . . . I just love food!

I do have my favourite flavours though, and ginger happens to be one of them.

I love it dried and ground and baked into lovely cakes, cookies, and puddings.

I love it fresh and grated and added raw to salads, dressings and marinades.

I love it chopped and added to cooked dishes. A slice of it pounded and mixed with a piece of lemon and then steeped in some boiling water makes a marvelously healing tea when you are down with the sniffles . . . trust me.

I especially love it preserved . . . little round nuggets of ginger, preserved in a delicious syrup. It's delicious chopped and added to all sorts of baked goods. The syrup is fantastic when combined with butter and used to glaze carrots. I also love candied ginger, which is similar, but dry and coated in sugar. I just adore that plain and then dipped into dark chocolate . . . a once a year Christmas Treat just for me . . . okay, I'll share . . . I promise.

This fabulous cake uses it in two forms . . . both dried and ground, as well as preserved in syrup. This is easily one of our favourite cakes, and I hope it will become one of your favourites as well.

Don't you just love the autumn!!! That is when food like this comes into it's own. Ginger cake just suits autumn, no matter which way you cut it. (no pun intended)

*Spicy Ginger Traybake*
Makes 20 squares
Printable Recipe

We just love the warm and spicy flavours of this delicious cake. It is one of those one bowl, one step, wonderful cakes that tastes even better as the days go by. This is one of Todd's favourites! (He's just an old fashioned guy with old fashioned tastes!)

230g butter, softened (1 cup)
170g light muscovado sugar (13 1/2 TBS)
 200g dark treacle (9 TBS)
312g self raising flour (2 3/4 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 large free range eggs
4 TBS milk
3 bulbs of preserved stem ginger, chopped finely

For the Icing:
130g icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
3 TBS ginger syrup from the stem ginger jar
3 bulbs of preserved stem ginger, chopped coarsely
a bit of milk if necessary

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a 12 by 9 inch traybake tin and line with parchment paper.

Weigh out all the cake ingredients and place into a large bowl. Beat together with an electric mixer until well blended. Spoon into the prepared baking sheet, smoothing the top over with a plastic spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until risen, lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, and the top springs back when gently touched. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the pan for several minutes before lifting out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the ginger syrup. Beat with the mixer, adding milk as necessary until the icing is smooth and has a good spreading consistency. Spread over the cake, covering the top completely. Sprinkle the chopped stem ginger over top. Allow the icing to set completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Stuffed Baked Apples . . .

Long about this time of year, when the days start to get shorter and the nights start drawing in . . . and the air is filled with the smell of ripe apples and falling leaves, my heart starts to covet the comforts of home and simple things . . .

Things like warm sweaters and rubber wellies . . .

Sloes and hips and berries . . .

Long walks across the fields . . . with fallen acorns crunching underfoot, and Jess, our much beloved Border Collie, leading the way . . .

Purple sunsets, with a harvest moon hung low in the sky . . .

Bonfires and toasted fingers . . .

Baked apples . . . and cream . . .

*Stuffed Baked Apples*
Makes 6
Printable Recipe

This is the perfect autumn dessert. Impressive, tasty and oh so very easy to do.

6 Granny Smith Apples
2/3 cup cup of flaked toasted almonds
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
2 TBS plain flour
1 ounce of softened butter
pinch of cinnamon
6 cinnamon sticks

Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish large enough to hold all the apples. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife cut out the stem end of the apple. Take a melon baller and hollow out the inside a bit, removing the seeds and core and making a small pocket without going all the way through to the bottom. Make a light score all the way around the apples, horizontally. Place the apples in the baking dish.

Combine the almonds, flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Divide this mixture equally amongst the apples, stuffing it down inside. Stick a cinnamon stick into the centre of each. Bake for 25 minutes or so, until the apples are as soft as you would like them to be for eating. Serve warm with custard or spooning cream. Delicious!

Monday 21 September 2009

Millionaires' Shortbread

Millionaires' Shortbread has to be the ultimate indulgence of all time.

Imagine a crispy short and buttery base, spread with a totally scrumptious and rich caramel filling, and then covered with a crisp chocolate shell . . .

Each bite brings you an indulgently scrumptious taste of all three together.

mmmmmmmm . . . incredibly moreish . . .

Oh sure . . . You could buy it . . . they sell it in all the shops . . .

but . . . like all things . . .

Homemade is infinitely better . . .

Truly . . .

Would I lie to you????

*Millionaires' Shortbread*
Makes 24 squares
Printable Recipe

These are fabulous. The three textures . . . crisp shortbread base, gooey caramel centre and the crisp chocolate shell on top make for a decadently moreish bar. Bet you can't eat just one!!

For the Shortbread Base:
9 ounces flour
3 ounces caster sugar
6 ounces butter, cut into bits
For the Caramel:
4 ounces butter
4 ounces soft light brown sugar
2 - 397g tins of sweetened condensed milk
For the chocolate topping:
7 ounces good quality plain chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/375*F. Butter a 13 by 9 inch swiss roll tin. Set aside.

Weigh the flour, sugar and butter into a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture until it forms a dough. Press this into the base of the prepared tin, smoothing out evenly. Prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes, until firm to the touch and very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.

To make the caramel, place all the caramel ingredients into a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil, still stirring, then reduce the heat to low and cook very gently for about 5 minutes or so until the mixture has thickened slightly. Do not stop stirring as the mixture will catch and burn if you don't keep it moving. Remove from the heat and pour over the cooled shortbread base. Allow to cool completely.

To make the chocolate topping, break the chocolate into pieces and place into a bowl that you have set over simmering water. (Don't allow the bowl to touch the water) Melt completely, stirring occasionally. Pour over the cold caramel and leave to set. Cut into squares or bars to serve.

Note - you can vary the chocolate topping by melting about 3 ounces of each, dark, milk and white chocolate separately. Drop by dollops onto the top of the caramel and lightly swirl together to cover. Leave to set before cutting.